A few hours after the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) gave its report on last Sunday’s road accident where the Minister of State for Labour, Chief James Ocholi, his wife, Blessing and son, Joshua died, the Federal Government says his driver will be prosecuted for over-speeding and possession of a fake driver’s licence.
The move to try the driver identified as Mr. James Elegbede was disclosed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir Lawal.
Lawal, who is the chairman of the Federal Government’s 13-member burial committee for the deceased minister, disclosed this to newsmen in response to questions on the fate of the driver who had been indicted by the FRSC’s interim report.
He, however, stated that the prosecution of the driver would wait until FRSC’s full investigation report is made available to determine the level of his culpability.
Lawal said: “Nigeria is not short of laws; the problem is that Nigerians find it very difficult to obey the laws. There is a speed limit in place and so if anybody chooses not to obey the traffic laws, of course, it is subject to prosecution by the agencies concerned.
“But as to this particular incident, I think we will leave it until the final report of the investigation comes out. But as we say, accident is accident and nobody goes out deliberately to somersault and die.”
Assuaging concerns that the injured driver and other aides’ still recuperating in the hospital after the accident and their families may have been neglected, Lawal said that “the government decided to give employment to the children of the late minister because he was the breadwinner and the children are now orphans.
“On the other hand, the driver survived and the government is taking care of their medical bills at the National Hospital and they (other aides) are also government workers as some of them are policemen, SSS and others.
“So, they are on salary and are treated free, but – God forbid that had any of them suffered the same fate as those who died, the President would have willingly included them in the list of beneficiaries.”
On reports that a family member made allegations of foul play in the death of the Ocholis, the SGF said that government was not aware of that but that anyone with useful information should report to the appropriate agencies.
The FRSC had on Monday told President Muhammadu Buhari that over-speeding and non-use of safety seat belts led to the accident on the Abuja-Kaduna Road.
The Corps Marshal of the FRSC, Boboye Oyeyemi, who presented the interim accident report on the crash at a valedictory session of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in honour of Ocholi, said that the driver of the vehicle was inexperienced and had no valid driver’s licence captured on the national database.
Oyeyemi said that following the impact of the crash, the late minister and his son were ejected from the vehicle while the wife was trapped by the left passenger door before the car slid to a halt.
It added that “the ejection of the minister and his son who occupied the rear seats confirmed the fact that their rear seat belts were not in use and on the contrary, the driver and the orderly survived because the front seat belts were in use.”
Oyeyemi said “information gathered revealed that the driver of the crashed vehicle was actually moving in excess of the stipulated speed limit when he had a burst tyre.
“The crashed vehicle driver was driving too fast and he slammed on his brake so hard. These two factors materially contributed to the inability of the driver to maintain control when the left rear tyre burst.
“Skid marks and grooves found on the westbound shoulder made by the Lexus LX570 for about 15m and 9.3m respectively before it began somersaulting severely and the ejection of the minister and his son, showed clearly that the travelling speed of the Lexus LX570 presented unsafe consequences in the event of certain road risk that may have occurred.
“The driver must have entered into a panic situation which resulted to his hard application of brakes and subsequent loss of control that took him into the bush path.
“The DOT number of the tyres were inward which cannot easily be read from outside. This indicates that the orientations of the tyres were not properly fixed which could adversely affect the performance of the tyres.
“The Federal Road Safety Corps Investigation Team (FIT) determines that the probable cause of the March 6, 2016 fatal crash at KM34 Kaduna -Abuja Expressway near Rijana Village Kaduna State was the driver’s failure to maintain directional control of his vehicle when the rear left tyre burst occurred.
Boboye also revealed that there were potholes within the vicinity of the accident and that road shoulders where the accident happened had started failing.
Also, occupants of the minister’s back-up car behind noticed that the tyre of the minister’s vehicle was not fully inflated and with no communication equipment (walkie-talkie) to inform the driver, a GSM call to the driver did not also go through.
They attempted to overtake the minister’s car in order to warn the driver but could not do so before the sad incident.
He however explained that a driver ought not to step on the brake in the event of a tyre burst but to hold firmly to the steering and gradually navigate the car until it comes to a stop.
Meanwhile, Buhari started the FEC valedictory session by requesting for a minute silence for Ocholi and the Army General who died the previous day in another car crash along Maiduguri-Damaturu Road on Monday.
The president praised Ocholi’s humility and capacity for hard work.
Six ministers were chosen from each of the geopolitical zones to pay tributes and they all spoke glowingly on the kindness, humility and love for family of the late Ocholi.
Lawal announced the burial arrangements for Ocholu thus: March 16: Service of Songs at International Conference Centre, Abuja; March 17: Corpse leaves for Dekina LGA, Kogi State; March 18 is for internment at noon.